Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Syrian Crackdown

In Syria, Bashar al-Assad is cracking down hard on protestors:
"Bashar al-Assad is determined to quell the Syrian revolt, which is why he has sent in the military with tanks and is now arresting the network of opposition activists and leaders that his intelligence agencies have been able to track.

"There is an element of 'shock and awe' to the operation. Tanks are clearly not useful for suppressing an urban rebellion, but they demonstrate the superior firepower of the state and the determination of the president. It is a classic military strategy – go hard and quick. Take out the opposition before t has a chance to harden and develop a durable command a reliable cell structure. This is precisely what the US military tried to do in Iraq. It is what it failed to do in Libya, when it allowed Qaddafi to regroup and regain control of Tripoli and Western Libya after his initial confusion and weakness."

Joshua Landis, from whom the above analysis is taken, wonders if the opposition could take a Libyan turn:
"Some of the leadership of the opposition is dedicated to peaceful means, but this pacifism is not universal. Already we have witness the resort to arms by the opposition. In Banyas, nine soldiers were shot while driving down the main highway into the city by armed opposition elements. In Jable, demonstrators had armed themselves with clubs, shovels and other weapons. Although useless against firearms, these weapons demonstrated the mood of the crowd and willingness to oppose state violence with violence of their own. Syrian authorities have insisted from the beginning that opposition elements have been shooting at police and the military. Even if only a small percentage of these reports are true, it suggests that the opposition is willing to use force."

Syria's eastern porous desert border was once a primary means of smuggling arms into Iraq. I don't know the Syrian opposition, but there's no reason that flow cannot be reversed, especially if Saudi Arabia and perhaps Israel want to destabilize the Syrian government.

UPDATE: I should probably toss in here, though, that the lack of military involvement on the protestors' side is an important difference from Libya.



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